Last year, there’s been a lot of talk about how to generate valuable backlinks and when Google’s webmaster trends analyst, John Mueller, suggested to avoid link building as an optimization strategy, it stirred a mix of reactions within the SEO community with many pertinent questions being raised: has link building stopped being a core marketing strategy? Do backlinks have the same weight in Google’s ranking algorithm? What are the most appropriate and effective link building strategies?
And here’s the answer that addresses them all: link building is maintaining the same relevance in Google’s internal kitchen but, just like any other bits and pixels that obey the laws of digital evolution, it has become much more advanced and sophisticated – in other words, the era of industrial scale, automatically built links is long gone, making room for natural links which highlight “user value” content instead.
Made even clearer by its latest algorithm updates, Google’s present approach is essentially user-oriented – the internet is now a take-away commodity, mobile and easily accessible, which means both users and creators are constantly tapping into an ever-growing flux of of information, but it’s the users who have the power to shape this flux through the choices they make. And, in the digital world, choices are a matter of split seconds and a complex algorithm dictated by a highly sophisticated machine that’s being taught how to think like an average person.
What does this mean for SEOs, marketers and for those who want to build a successful revenue-generating online business? That, in order to work for and not against its purpose, link-building should no longer be regarded as an automated act, but a process through which something valuable is delivered to the end user.
Here are 5 validated ways to achieve that:
#1. Reach Out to Industry Related Communities
We’ve probably all heard about collaboration marketing – attracting and acquiring new customers by maximizing delivered value through the collaborative efforts of two or more entities.
Daily deal websites are a successful illustration of the concept, and so is Etsy.
But what does it have to with backlinks?
Simple: by reaching out to industry or niche-related communities, or even from complementary ones, and offering to share resources, assets and/or knowledge, you’ll make a meaningful contribution to your own industry while being rewarded with the opportunity of forging good relationships and gaining golden backlinks.
How to: Collaborative Best Practices/How-To guides are one example of how this strategy could be put into action.
#2. Creating List and Round-up Posts
This is one of Neil Patel’s best link-building advice because, if done by the book, it has the potential to create fantastic results.
The “100 Guaranteed Ways to Generate More Traffic Fast” or “50 SEO Inside Tips from Industry Experts” formula was and will be popular for a long time because it compiles scattered information and it makes it available in an easy-to-digest format.
How to: after the post creation, reach out to the persons you mentioned or who are behind the resources listed. Let them know about your blog post and encourage them to share it with their audience. Not all of them will do it but some will even link to your site – which is precisely the point.
#3. Fix Broken Links
This one is a bit more technical and time consuming but it’s a great opportunity to secure links that your competition wouldn’t even dream of.
Essentially, this method involves finding authority sites within your industry or niche that have links pointing to resources no longer available. If your content matches the profile, the next step would be to contact the site’s webmaster and let them know you can provide a reliable alternative for those broken links
Again, not all of them will reply, but those who’ll get back to you will make all your work worthwhile.
How to: to discover the broken links that can be replaced with your own, you can use tools such as the Screaming Frog, which is free for up to 500 URLs, or the premium Broken Links Finder. They work in completely different ways – Screaming Frog requires you to upload a list with the URLs to scan while the Broken Links Finder does all the work using your chosen keywords – but they both deliver great results.
#4. Social Conversations
Now, there’s been a lot of talk about the value of social signals and and, at some point, Mark Cutts has even debunked the myth that +1s on Google+ lead to higher Google rankings.
Fortunately, we’re not talking about these type of social links and correlations, we’re talking about actually monitoring social networks, industry forums and Q&A based websites for topics, questions and conversations regarding your niche.
How to: the best way to use these social settings is to pitch in with relevant insights. Can you answer a question? Do it! Do you have a relevant article on the topic? Link to it. You’ll not only create an inbound link, but, in time, you’ll also gain exposure, increasing your authority in the industry.
This method is highly efficient, however, there’s a caveat: don’t spam. With this approach, the accent is on providing value, and the opportunity to link towards one of your websites or articles should come on the side – only do it when it makes sense, and as a complementary resource to your response or participation.
#5. Local links for local businesses
Being part of a community has its perks, and we bet you didn’t think link building may be one of them. But it could be, as long as you have something to offer, be it a discount or a freebie.
For example, offering a student discount or sponsoring a local charity could land you a link on .edu and .gov domains, which are the holy grails of inbound links.
Opportunities exist everywhere but it takes work and time to build something valuable. However, in the end, focusing on creating in-depth content and digital assets, and building connections within your industry or even outside of it, are, in themselves, the best link-building strategies money can’t buy.
2016 is, therefore, the year when we have to grow-up some more, both as marketers and as creators, by getting cozy and practical with the fact that high-quality inbound links are tightly related to high-quality, user-rewarding content, and by realizing that the practice itself, if done right, is much more than a traffic-boosting opportunity, contributing to a better, smarter World Wide Web.